Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans: A (Mostly) Sordid History Lesson


Week 11 of Monday Night Football features a historical match-up of two of the AFC’s original powerhouses: the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers. The Steelers leads the series 44-23 yet the Titans have justly earned the SPOILER title for the Steelers.

Here are a few of the games that highlight the Steelers’ sordid past with the Titans:

1. 2013 season opener: Pouncey goes down, Titans win 16-9

This game will be remembered for the injury to prized Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey. Fellow teammate David DeCastro was attempting to chop at the legs of a Titans defender when he accidentally dove directly into Pouncey, ending his season and the Steelers’ hopes for the 2013 season. The loss of Pouncey left quarterback Ben Roethlisberger unprotected and a five-sack butt-kicking ensued.

The game also signaled the beginning of the end for Emmanuel Sanders‘ career in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger leaned heavily on Sanders, targeting him 12 times; however, Sanders bumbled ball after ball, catching only seven for 57 yards. Sanders has turned into a reliable weapon for Peyton Manning but we remember his missed opportunities in Pittsburgh.

2. Sept. 24, 2000: Resurrection of Air McNair’s Tennessee career, Titans win 23-20

The Steelers were winning late in the fourth quarter when former Steeler Neil O’Donnell was knocked out and bloodied by the Steelers defense. Steelers fans rejoiced that O’Donnell finally got his pay back for giving away Super Bowl XXX until they realized to be careful what they wish for.

In comes Steve McNair, who hadn’t practiced in two weeks after suffering a bruised sternum. According to teammate Eddie George, he was even contemplating retirement. McNair needed only 1:25 and three passes to lead his team to the ultimate “Air” McNair comeback victory.

3. 2002 Divisional Playoffs:  Titans win 34-31 in overtime

This one brings back memories of coach Bill Cowher and perhaps one the most ridiculed Steelers in history, cornerback DeWayne Washington. McNair limped into the playoffs with multiple injuries (thumb/ribs/shoulder/concussion), but an injuried McNair always seemed to be a recipe for certain Steelers disaster. McNair tore-up Washington and the rest of the Steelers secondary for over 330 yards. Legendary Titans tight end Frank Wychek led the way with 123 yards and caught one of McNair’s two TD passes on the day. The Titans could have won it in regulation had it not been for the 48-yard miss by Titans kicker Joe Nedney.

Nedney saved his best ‘performance” for overtime. He came out to kick the game-winner but Cowher called a time out just before he put it through the uprights. Nedney missed the kick on his second attempt but nailed a perfect “10” on his dramatic fall as Dewayne Washington nearly blocked the kick. Washington was incorrectly called for roughing the kicker and the penalty gave the Titans one last shot. Nedney’s third kick sent the Steelers home and the Titans to the AFC Championship game.

4. Sept. 19, 2010: Harrison’s WWE slam of Young, Steelers win 19-11

This game will go down as one of James Harrison’s career best — and the one that started his ongoing war with commissioner Roger Goodell. The Steelers needed someone to step up in the absence of Ben Roethlisberger, who had been suspended due to violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Harrison played out of his mind: two sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one tackle for loss, and 11 total tackles.

One of those sacks was a complete body slam of Titans rookie QB Vince Young. Harrison, alongside Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, mobbed Young as he dropped back to throw. Harrison lifted Young into the air, pile-driving him into the ground.

Harrison was not penalized on the play, but was later fined $5,000 by the commissioner. It was the beginning of a $120,000 tab Harrison would ring up on the year, and the kickoff to his rivalry with Goodell.